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“That record was so heavy for me and Kim and Lee…It was this propulsive guitar instrumental that was just breakneck…They had a big influence on me…The music is way ahead of its time." — quotes by Thurston Moore excerpted from the article “THE NOISE LIVES”

The Notekillers, punkers born of blue-collar Philly, spoke loudly 25 years ago, but disbanded in disappointment. They're back, loud as ever.

by Dan DeLuca
Philadelphia Inquirer Music Critic
Sunday, April 17, 2005

Once upon a time - from 1977 to 1981, to be precise - a mighty band called the Notekillers roamed the Philadelphia music scene.

It was the punk-rock era, and the Notekillers played with a three-minute fury, an in-your-face aggressiveness that should have made them favorites of the spiked-hair and safety-pin crowd.

But the Notekillers never fit in with the punks, or anyone else. They never found an audience beyond a few dozen close friends and loyal fans, and were left out of the music history books. It was as if they never were.

That is, until Thurston Moore, influential alt-culture tastemaker and guitarist for noise-rock band Sonic Youth, told a British music magazine in 2002 about a not-even-obscure band from Philadelphia that had released a "mind-blowing instrumental single" called "The Zipper" that rocked his world. "We have to find out who these guys are," he said.

And he did. A generation after being recorded, the band's debut album, Notekillers, was released to critical acclaim last fall by Moore's label, Ecstatic Peace. The band has re-formed, is writing new songs, and will play the World Cafe Live on Thursday, opening for Gary Lucas' Gods and Monsters - edging toward a success that escaped the instrumental band more than 20 years ago.

Back then, the Notekillers were working-class guys from Rhawnhurst, a guitar-bass-and-drums power trio with no vocalist and, occasionally, a conga player sitting in.

They lived together in a rented house in Logan, calling it "the Notel," and rehearsed obsessively six nights a week, combining their love for free jazz and rock into music as hard, fast and tight as they could possibly play it.

Regulars at such Philadelphia venues as the Hot Club and Artemis, they shared bills with local bands like the Stickmen and national acts such as the Bush Tetras and Feelies, and would have opened for Sid Vicious if he hadn't died a week before the gig. They ventured to Manhattan in search of affirmation that they were onto something powerful and original.

"We confused and alienated people," remembers guitarist David First. "There was always something suspect about us. We had our loyal fans, but it was a bit of a lost cause."

In 1980, the Notekillers - First, drummer Barry Halkin, and bassist Stephen Bilenky - recorded "The Zipper" in a makeshift studio in the basement of Beauty on a Budget, Bilenky's father's East Oak Lane beauty parlor. It was a ripping, burn-the-paint-off-the-walls jam that sounded like deconstructed surf music. They made 500 copies, distributed them to a handful of record stores, and waited for the world to be set on fire.

It wasn't.

"Packaged right, weirdos can sell," says Bilenky. "But we were weirdos of weird shapes and weird sizes, with weird music." They recorded a second single - "Run Don't Stop," a play on the Ventures' "Walk Don't Run" - but it never came out. After a final show in Hoboken, N.J., in 1981, the band broke up in frustration.

"It got to the point where it just wasn't moving forward," says Halkin. "It left a bad taste in my mouth." They moved on, got married, raised children. Halkin, a powerhouse drummer whose kinetic playing brings to mind Keith Moon, became an architectural photographer and put his sticks down for years, before playing with an R&B cover band in the '90s.

In the '80s, Bilenky played with a Hasidic outfit called the Baal Shem Tov Band. "We called it the Rockin' Rabbi Band," recalls Bilenky, who wears an Old Testament beard. In the years since, his Olney custom bike business, Bilenky Cycle Works, has gained an international reputation for innovative design, and is featured in the new issue of Bicycling magazine.

First, who like his bandmates is 51, stuck with music. Born David Hirsch, he'd played with Halkin and Bilenky in a band called Dead Cheese while attending Northeast High. Later he studied with guitarist Dennis Sandole (who tutored John

Coltrane) and free-jazz great Cecil Taylor, with whose ensemble he played at Carnegie Hall when he was 19.

After the Notekillers, the guitarist changed his name to First - an amalgam of his parents' names, Hirsch and Fischer - and moved to New York. He carved out a career as an experimental minimalist composer and instrumentalist, and has also recorded more straightforward singer-songwriter projects, such as the 2002 album Universary.

As the years passed, the Notekillers became just a box of tapes in First's parents' garage.

"It was a lost era for me," says the - Philadelphia Inquirer

"Greatest Hits, Reissues And Compilations; In a Wide Holiday Groove, From Sinatra to a Remixed 'Messiah'"

''NOTEKILLERS'' -- (Ecstatic Peace). The Notekillers were a squally, no-vocals band from Philadelphia whose discography consisted solely of a single from 1980. Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, an early fan, arranged this CD retrospective, and it's astonishing. Full of unreleased recordings (otherwise it would be very short indeed), the disc captures the trio making a racket that's ferocious yet surprisingly sprightly. While the rhythm section churns furiously, David First peels off a series of scrambled guitar lines, precise even when he's improvising. His diagonal riffs are marvelously untraceable (Surf-rock? New-wave? Heavy metal? Free jazz? Serialism?), and somehow these dense compositions inevitably come out sounding like party music. It's clear this band ranked with any of New York's much-celebrated no-wave acts. KELEFA SANNEH - New York Times November 26, 2004, Friday



HOW MANY TIMES have you heard this story? Small band in the punk-70s presses 1000 copies of its tangled, guitar-armied single. It goes nowhere. Band disappears, only to be mentioned years later in an import-only mag by an alt-rock icon who swears that band was a prime influence on his own act. Band gets back together, releases all sessions recorded during its prime. Ta dah.

Oh, if I only had a nickel.

But that's what happened when Thurston Moore told Mojo about the Notekillers, a Philadelphia Branca-esque instrumental band whose bee-swarming single "The Zipper" is said to have inspired the mangled mien of Sonic Youth. Led by minimalist-driven guitarist David First (who had, by the time the band was conceived, already played with pianist Cecil Taylor's band), the Notekillers were meant as an escape from free jazz into a more primal punk take on atonal scales. It worked. Drummer Barry Halkin and bassist Stephen Bilenky, also faced with a collective love of all things Branca-like, gave First's Middle Eastern-inspired six strings the weight of water on which to ski. With little money, the Notekillers released "The Zipper," a single unlike anything at the time—with swerving guitar buzz and deep rhythms.

Even by art-punk's standards, the Notekillers didn't fit. So they went away, leaving First to become a darling of Manhattan's new music/nu-opera/Kitchen set with AIDS crisis theatricals like The Manhattan Book of the Dead and songs dedicated to 9/11 victims like "Jump Back." First would've been happy staying minimal—that is until Moore's Mojo mention. Struck by the need to get intensely maximal once more, not only did First send Thurston some Notekillers' tapes to hear (and subsequently release, for their first ever CD, Notekillers (1977-1981) he reunited with Bilenky and Halkin. The results are even more forcefully brazen than in their youth. You may cheer the noise of the reunited Pixies. But you'll cry once you hear the Notekillers. - New York Press SUN., NOV. 7

"Assorted Press Quotes"

(on the just released new single)

...heavy jams, so ferocious they might qualify as metal...Notekillers are relentless in their pursuit on this killer three-chord romp, right from the opening wail of the feedback. The metallic guitars, heavy like a thousand-pound weight and grinding like so many of Branca’s compositions, reside somewhere in the grey area between metal and no wave.
—Her Jazz

Blistery instrumental single by seminal and now reunited post-punkers. This is brand new and picks up from where exactly these punkers left it 30 years ago. Their sound is a distinct concoction of blistery drumming and thick guitars which have that metallc dissonant/angular post-punk edge that can only be compared to the great works of Glenn Branca. Very symphonic and epic. The shit’s so freaking good!!! Play, play, play.
— Zookeeper Online
KZSU (Stanford)

new single is awesome!!! the world needs a new album!!!
—Scott Seward
I Love Music

(on the Ecstatic Peace CD, etc...)

“That record was so heavy for me and Kim and Lee…It was this propulsive guitar instrumental that was just breakneck…They had a big influence on me…The music is way ahead of its time."
— Thurston Moore from the Philadelphia Inquirer article “THE NOISE LIVES”
April 17 2005

“Astonishing...and somehow these dense compositions inevitably come out sounding like party music. It's clear this band ranked with any of New York's much celebrated no-wave acts.”
—Kelefa Sanneh
New York Times
November 26 2004

“...a harbinger of a new blues or funk that still hasn't been invented. The Notekillers combine a precision that makes them conceptualize "microtones" and a recklessness that makes them try impossible grooves. In other words, this kicks.”
—Frank Kogan
Village Voice
December 15 -22 2004

"a reunion show at Tonic was so ungodly potent that we're beside ourselves at the chance to see them do it again!"
—Mike Wolf
Time Out New York
March 24-30 2005

“The Zipper is perhaps one of the great rock and roll singles of all time…”
—Dan Buskirk
WPRB-FM (Princeton U)/Rate Your Music
October 24 2004

“An influence comes home to roost.”
—Jon Pareles
November 5 2004

“A high-density instrumental art-punk trio…with a CD built around their awesome 1980 single The Zipper.”
—Douglas Wolk
Village Voice
November 3-9 2004

“Like the ghosts who haunt the living due to a past misdeed or injustice, the Notekillers are not to be forgotten, and this CD serves as a reminder of what once was and what still might be.“
—Adam Strohm
November 2004

“You may cheer the noise of the reunited Pixies. But you’ll cry once you hear the Notekillers.”
—A.D. Amorosi
NY Press
November 3-9 2004

“A furious instrumental trio…loaded with tuneful guitar-bass-drum maelstroms—avant garde spy themes that rock. Killer.”
—Time Out NY
November 4-11 2004

“Rumbling, minimalist late-‘70s Philadelphia trio the Notekillers connected the dots between free jazz and punk long before Sonic Youth and their ilk, and presaged the instrumental indie-rock scene by a good decade or so.
—Amy Phillips
Village Voice
November 10-16 2004

“Eddytor's Dozen”(a weekly list compiled by the Village Voice music editor)
—Chuck Eddy
Village Voice
November 17-23 2004

“…they plowed through their set list, mercilessly chasing down songs into smothering concentric coils…”
—Nick Pinkerton
Indie Wire
January 11 2005

"The reconstituted and rejuvenated Notekillers return with their singular stew of furious art rock, improvisational derring-do and compositional "what the?" essence. If you hear anyone lamenting about how all the old punk bands are coming back to make bank, defuse the situation by uttering this band's name."
-Time Out NY
June 23-29 2005

“Had Thurston Moore not cited these guys as an influence, this collection of odd recordings and live performances never would have emerged. It would've been too bad for me -- too bad for all of us -- if that had been the case.”
—Alex Marx
Splendid E-Zine
January 24 2005

“Notekillers played frenetic instrumental rock that started at the boiling point and heated up from there… (They)show up thousands of groups that gave '90s indie-rock its grinding, math-minded edge...”
—Andy Battaglia
The Onion
January 26 2005

“As we commence Bush II, the Notekillers have thrown their formidably passionate voices into the fray with a reworked version of Jefferson Airplane’s antiwar song “House at Pooneil Corners.” It is as furious as the times we live in.”
—Mike Wolf
Time Out NY
January 27 – February 3 2005

“From the warped atonal notes plucked at its beginning, to the impending doom struck with every cymbal crash, this track slays...Hearing this rendition makes me understand, in a way, what hearing rock music was like back when it was new and it terrified the fuck out of mass culture.”
—Maria T
Her Jazz
January 18 2005

“…pur - Various Publications

"Notekillers "1977-81" (2004)"


Note  :  9/10

Nulle part, mais partout à la fois, les Notekillers représentent une obscurité digne des plus captivantes bas de page des grands livres de l'histoire du rock. Thurston Moore de Sonic Youth, parrain de cette édition sur son étiquette Ecstatic Peace!, qualifie leur simple vinyle The Zipper (1978) de "mind-blowing instrumental single!" et avec raison! L'héritage des Notekillers se retrouve en partie dans le son bruyant de ces new-yorkais. Fait intéressant pour les connaisseurs, David First, qui mène maintenant une carrière indépendante de chanteur électro-pop expérimental entre des enregistrements de musique microtonale, était le guitariste dissonant des Notekillers - complété par Stephen Bilenky (basse) and Barry Halkin (batterie). "1977-81" est une compilation du meilleur matériel (ou seul ?) de ce groupe malencontreusement oublié.

Dès The Zipper, il n'y a aucune hésitation. Les Notekillers faisaient possiblement le meilleur post-punk instrumental que le monde ait connu! La guitare effrénée, sans retenue aucune de First, la basse coincée entre deux notes de Bilenky, et la rythmique simple de Halkin les gardent dans l'esprit du rock simple frappant vigoureusement vos couilles pour qu'elles se dégourdissent un peu..mais pas juste un peu! En même temps, leur énergie nerveuse anormale défie celle des Talking Heads et Gang Of Four avec une précision technique fort supérieure et une préférence évidente pour l'innovation - sans handicaper la bonne composition. L'entrain instantanément contagieuse de Clock Wise égale celle de The Zipper. Run Don't Stop la joue on ne peut plus cérébrale avec un riff minimaliste s'accélèrant et se recontextualisant constamment en fin de boucle. La dernière minute offre les réponses gagnantes à leur public punk de l'époque. Le feedback disjoncté, très sale et approximatif de Juggernauts rappelle la bande à Thurston sur leur suprême Sister, enregistré aussi lo-fi-mment (1987).

Il n'y a pas cinq chansons de passées et déjà les Notekillers c'est clair que c'est gros (sale) et important : ils méritent mieux qu'une note de bas de page! Ricochet et Motorcycle Song nous rappellent le retour monstrueux de Mission of Burma en 2004 alors qu'ils livraient un album digne voire supérieur à leur solitaire et légendaire VS, paru en 1982. Braindance pousse les limites encore plus loin avec une maîtrise du synchronisme sans temps fixes, un dynamisme 'insuivable' comparable à celui de tous nos Ruins, Don Caballero, Upsilon Acrux et compagnie. Captain Beefheart serait tout autant fier d'une telle folie rock.

Il est difficile de ne pas s'adonner au jeu de la comparaison en écoutant ce trio explosif tellement il semble avoir laissé sa marque partout. Sans restreindre l'engagement, la dédication des Notekillers à leur art presque sans public, la mélodique Spaceland Chant apporte de l'oxygène et de l'eau à un moulin usé. Encore là, la contemporalité épate la galerie avec un crescendo d'une grande intensité judicieusement restreinte. Punk Song n'a rien des trois accords prévisibles joués maladroitement et tourne autour d'un riff déconstruit, devenant de plus en plus ambigu et dissonante. La fin n'est que bruit destructeur, mais si libérateur. Roll Over Stockhausen..oui, c'est immense et subversif comme le titre. Mais comment font-ils pour soutenir de manière aussi convaincante une dynamique aussi chaotique ? Nous ne saurons problablement jamais la réponse à notre question. Happy Endings et ça continue pendant que nos hanches n'en peuvent plus de gigoter comme un diable dans l'eau bénite.

Run Don't Stop, non non, tu t'arrêteras surtout pas, car tu auras trop peur de tomber à la renverse dans une position précaire que seul un tel exercise d'étirement mental peut provoquer.

"1977-81" est un must pour tout amateur de rock bruyant, dissonant, nerveux, cérébral, dangereusement frénétique ou encore acharné intelligemment!!

Mes pièces préférées : The Zipper, Clock Wise, Roll Over Stockhausen


Rating: 9/10

Nowhere, but everywhere at the same time, Notekillers represent a darkness worthy of most captivating low of page of the large books of the history of the rock'n'roll. Thurston Moore de Sonic Youth, godfather of this edition on his label Ecstatic Peace!, qualify their simple vinyl The Zipper (1978) of "mind-blowing instrumental individual!" and with reason! The heritage of Notekillers is found partly in the noisy sound of these new Yorkeans. Fact interesting for the experts, David First, who now carries out a career independent of experimental electro-pop singer between recordings of music microtonale, was the dissonant guitarist of Notekillers - supplemented by Stephen Bilenky (low) and Barry Halkin (battery). "1977-81" is a compilation of the best material (or only?) this group inopportunely forgotten.

As of The Zipper, there is no hesitation. Notekillers possibly made best thepunk instrumental one than the worl -

"Featured Review"

There's a moment near the end of this self-titled LP when the announcer at a Notekillers show introduces the band. He's answered by a cry of unruly glee -- from what sounds like about ten people.

So went Notekillers' brief existence, from 1977 to 1981. I want the idea of the true artist laboring in obscurity to be a myth; if someone has the brilliance and tenacity to create real art, then they should find a way to get it to me. For the instrumental no-wave trio of David First (guitar), Stephen Bilenky (bass) and Barry Halkin (drums), it's taken a mere two and a half decades for that to happen. Had Thurston Moore not cited these guys as an influence, this collection of odd recordings and live performances never would have emerged. It would've been too bad for me -- too bad for all of us -- if that had been the case.

Notekillers play a blend of Sex Pistols-like punk, jazz, blues and funk, with other influences ranging as far afield as snake dance. It's propulsive, wild-eyed instrumental noise pop. It's also quite dense; this is the kind of record that demands to be listened to. Several times I looked at back of the jewel case to make sure I was really only listening to three musicians; the level of sonic density the band achieves with its minimalist approach is astonishing. The interplay between guitar and bass sometimes feels like a tug-of-war -- neither instrument is content with a single role, and each one takes the lead at different times, only to cede it a few moments later.

The collection gets off to a smashing start with "The Zipper", the song that first caught Thurston Moore's attention. Its pace never abates as it rakes over its cascading melody again and again, the whole slew barely keeping from flying apart. "Juggernauts" is methodical enough to compare with Tortoise, while "Spaceland Chant" changes pace in the middle of the album, to wonderful effect: a beautiful guitar theme tinkles over the album's softest bass line, and then the bass's voice builds, takes over, and yields again. "Happy Endings"' raw strumming probably comes closest to a modern noise-pop aesthetic -- it's primitive but prophetic stuff.

Taken from a series of spur-of-the-moment recordings, Notekillers offers no production values to speak of. It creates a one-off feel that's actually engaging, but I'd love to hear some of this material with packaging to match the musicianship and song structure. The band has started to play shows again around Pennsylvania and New Jersey; their next stop should be a recording studio.-- Alex Marx


Airport + Ants CD single on Two-Big (2006)
Notekillers 1977-81 CD on Ecstatic Peace (2004)
The Zipper b/w Clock Wise 7" on American Bushman (1980)

Airport + Ants - released mid April - immediately showed up on many radio stations' top ten lists.

The Zipper is still being played consistently on college radio since its release a year and a half ago, and, in fact, almost every song from the CD (especially Clock Wise, Run Don't Stop & Juggernauts) has been played multiple times. The week of January 18, 2005 the band reached #11 on the Dusted Magaine top 40 (National College Radio) chart.



"a reunion show at Tonic was so ungodly potent that we're beside ourselves at the chance to see them do it again!"

—Time Out New York
March 24-30 2005
(more quotes/articles in press section)

Thurston Moore once called the Notekillers a "weird lost myth for some of us". Originally existing in fairly complete obscurity from 1977-81 in Philadelphia, the Notekillers were profoundly reminded how little one can really understand about the whims of fate when twenty-some years after they broke up in utter frustration, Thurston hailed their single "The Zipper" as "mind-blowing" and named them as a significant influence on Sonic Youth in a recent issue of Mojo Magazine. Soon after that they were putting out a compilation CD of archival material from back in the day on his Ecstatic Peace label and soon after THAT the Notekillers decided to find out if the world would like them any more now than back then.

And the answer coming back is a resounding "YES!"—they've gotten just an incredible amount of glowing press for the CD and have been getting fantastic responses every time they venture out there to play a combination of new jams and old favorites. People seem genuinely stunned by the sound and the spectacle.

For this, we can thank the NK's crack R&D department which diligently explored and synthesized the properties and practices of destabilized rock music, screaming free jazz, pre-school funk, 20th-century sub-atomic composers, hyper-reductivist thinkin', thousand year old shamanic hand-me-downs, 5th dimension visitation rites, kaleidoscopes, watchmaking, athletics and pebbles tossed in a glassy pond.

All just to drive you nuts...